The differences between Old World wines and New World wines are generally quite noticeable, especially when it comes to Bordeaux varietals. In California, overall warmer temperatures can provide ample ripeness and lush fruit in the wines; whereas in France, the climate isn’t quite so warm and the fruit, as a result, isn’t always quite as rich in the wines. With that being said, both Old World and New World Bordeaux varietal wines need time to age—there is no question about that. These varietals have strong tannins that need to be tamed by time in bottle. Often rustic and gripping upon release, with bottle age, both Old World and New World Bordeaux varietal wines become some of the softest, most elegant expressions of wine in the world. Sought after by collectors in a variety of countries, Bordeaux varietals are the epitome of classic, elegant, age-worthy wines.
In Napa Valley, Sharon Kazan Harris of Rarecat Wines—along with Winemaker Joel Aiken and Paula Kornell—is crafting stunning wines that bring together both a classic touch of Old World charm and New World sensibility. Their latest red wine release, the 2010 Old Toll Hillside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley’s Calistoga appellation, is an astounding expression of its varietal. Blended with just a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (a total of 11% between the two varietals), this stunning 2010 vintage brings together just a subtle hint of California fruit, textured tannins, ample body and French Bordeaux-like savory characteristics and minerality. With five years from its vintage date, it is just beginning to hit its stride in the glass.
2010 was a tricky vintage for California grape growers and winemakers. The growing season started off relatively mild and wet, and heat waves in late August complicated matters more. Of course, grapes prefer slow, consistent heat throughout the growing season to achieve phenolic ripeness, but ultimately, the quality of the 2010 wines depended on decisions made in the vineyards and the choices made in the cellar. Clearly, the 2010 vintage was a challenge that Rarecat Wines had no problem rising up to.
Tasting Rarecat Wines' 2010 Old Toll Hillside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, the first characteristic one notices is the incredible balance, both in the aromatics and on the palate. The complex aromatics are filled with fruit and savory aromas—currants, red raspberries and black cherry mingle with dark chocolate, pencil lead, fresh tobacco leaf and smoked meat. The palate is equally as intricate with very subtle fruit and balancing savory qualities. The lusciously textured body is full and round, with slightly grippy tannins that one can tell are already receding into the background of the wine; with more bottle age, the tannins will become even more faint and the wine will gain more softness in texture and body. Dark fruit flavors of blueberry are quietly present on the palate with complex notes of smoked meat, wet rocks and olives; as the wine sits in the glass and is exposed to more air, the notes evolve into black cherry, blackberry, white pepper and cocoa. The structure is rather sophisticated with a lot of depth and energy, and the length is incredibly long on the finish. This is a beautiful, elegant and complex wine, and given more bottle age, it will become even more graceful.
Cheers to the Rarecat Wines crew, as they have done an impeccable job with this fabulous new release!
*Originally published on Examiner.